The Yellow Book, the NGS, the National Gardens Scheme (it is known by all these names), has clocked up 35 years working with Macmillan nurses, and has given the charity in all over 17 million pounds. There was a quiet celebration the other day at the Garden Museum in Lambeth on an afternoon that could have been called ‘too fine’, at 35 degrees in the shade. In keeping with its charitable status the rations were modest: water, tea, cake. Cake, indeed, seems to be a sub-plot of the organisation. New publicity material reads ‘Garden Open! Great Cake!’
It won’t say whether aspirant openers, having been checked for weeds or just-too-scruffiness, have to pass a bakery exam, but on the days when we opened Saling Hall for the Scheme providing enough cakes was always part of the challenge. Our Yellow Book collection went back to the time of our predecessor, Lady Isabel Carlisle. 1962 was the first of a run of 60 years.
Last year alone the gardens raised something like five million pounds for the nurses, to build new hospital wings, a new hospice, and help pay for thousands of nursing homes. Cake deserves at least an MBE for its contribution.